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A federal appeals court is barring the public from arguments in the case of an FBI contractor who was fired after reporting security breaches and alleged misconduct at the bureau. Arguments in Sibel Edmonds’ lawsuit were set for today before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The court informed Edmonds’ legal team Wednesday that only lawyers in the case would be admitted to the courtroom, despite the fact that much of her account has been detailed in a 35-page report issued three months ago by the Justice Department’s inspector general. Briefs in the case were publicly filed. “It’s unprecedented and outrageous for the court of appeals to close the argument and it serves no proper purpose to keep the public out,” said one of Edmonds’ lawyers, Arthur Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union. Spitzer said he was told that the court acted on its own, not at the request of the government. The ACLU challenged the closed hearing in court papers filed Wednesday. The Associated Press joined other media organizations including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in supporting the ACLU’s effort. Two private groups, the Project on Government Oversight and Public Citizen, also asked that the arguments be opened. Edmonds, a former FBI contract translator, is going to court against the Bush administration’s use of the “state secrets privilege,” which it invoked last year to get her case thrown out of U.S. District Court. The privilege, derived from English common law, enables the government in a suit to resist demands for information on national security grounds. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, said the “Bush Justice Department has taken a narrow privilege and used it with almost utter abandon.” Edmonds alleges she was retaliated against for telling FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and the possible passing of information from a wiretap to the target of an investigation. The inspector general’s report said Edmonds’ allegations to her superiors about a co-worker “raised serious concerns that, if true, could potentially have extremely damaging consequences for the FBI.” The inspector general concluded that the FBI did not adequately investigate the allegations and that Edmonds was retaliated against for speaking out. The FBI has said it fired Edmonds because she committed security violations and disrupted her office. The three appeals court judges who were to hear the case are Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle, appointees from the Reagan era; and Karen LeCraft Henderson was appointed a federal judge during the Reagan era and elevated to the appeals court by President Bush’s father in 1990. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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